Learning is a never-ending process, but for those in the education field, learning is a necessity of the profession. At SXSW EDU we spend a lot of time thinking about opportunities for learning and professional development (PD). It is something that is often top of mind for teachers and education leaders as well.

PD is the process of continued education. This can take many forms including specialized training, conferences, informal workshops, or formal lessons, all aimed toward expanding knowledge, competencies, and skills.

Oftentimes, schools and districts require PD as a means of ensuring that educators continue to strengthen their practice throughout their career. Additionally, education professionals frequently voluntarily seek PD. Career growth tops the list of desired employee benefits and is significantly valued. Furthermore, opportunities for professional and career development is of high interest for employees and a top priority for employers seeking to retain and grow talent.

There’s no shortage of strategies for keeping your skill set fresh and learning new things. As you enter the new year and start to think about your goals for 2018, here are three ways to push your professional development to the next level.

(Next page: PD opportunities abound at SXSW EDU)

1. Continue to pursue varied opportunities for growth and development

Research shows that inspired and informed educators are one of the most important factors influencing student achievement. Like students, teachers and education leaders are at their best when offered ongoing, diverse opportunities for growth and development.

With such a wide range of opportunities for professional and career development available, it’s worth stating that the most effective approach is ongoing, varied, and continuously innovative. PD should be responsive to those being served. Teachers and educators want a voice and choice when it comes to their PD. There’s no “one size fits all” solution to learning. Happy and effective professionals derive value from a multitude of styles and forms of learning including direct coaching, conferences, networking events, e-courses, research, or training materials.

As in the classroom, blending traditional strategies with an intentional use of technology and tools provides a personalized experience that accelerates learning. The best educational PD is highly relevant for students and immediately useful to educators.

For maximum growth, seek out a variety of opportunities. Creative and innovative PD will not only bring about a greater understanding of strategies and best practices, it’ll also inspire passion for the practice.

2. Attend training events and conferences as a team

It’s not uncommon for organizations to alternate the opportunities for PD among members of their staff, but there’s something to be said for attending training events and conferences as a team.

Attending a conference is a great way for organizations to nurture collaborative team-building and fortify company culture. Conference environments allow for more relaxed and natural interactions to occur; they also help inspire shared excitement and passion around work-related topics.

Conferences can be intimidating, but social support is empowering. Group settings provide a level of comfort that will ultimately help individuals achieve their goals. Mixing newer and tenured staff together also provides a unique opportunity for mentoring to occur.

In a team setting, there’s a natural desire to develop a strategy for tackling the training or event that leads to a deeper appreciation for the opportunity. Having a larger group present at an event also allows individuals to take a “divide and conquer” approach to the program, share notes, and explore resources that might be otherwise missed. It also encourages a dialog around the sessions, speakers, and topics that will likely lead to a greater overall understanding and appreciation for the content.

3. Stretch your comfort zone

The science of teaching is fluid as we are constantly finding new strategies for learning and getting through to students. Likewise, the best PD is fluid throughout every stage of your career.

It’s easy to default to routine and comfort, particularly when time and energy are a factor. Experiencing opportunities outside of the familiar is the key to revolutionary thinking. Unassuming opportunities are easy to dismiss, but take a second look and give new styles of PD a chance.

SXSW EDU is passionate about providing creative and impactful opportunities for educators seeking PD. For the March 2018 event, we’ve partnered with the Association of Texas Professional Educators to accredit the bulk of the program and provide continuing professional education (CPE) credits. More than a hundred sessions and workshops will be approved for CPE credit and there’s no shortage of informal learning opportunities including educational film screenings, performances, networking events, and more.

About the Author:

Jessi MacCall, senior digital media manager for SXSW EDU, has a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Mass Communications, Electronic Media, and Photography from Texas State University. She oversees the digital experience for SXSW EDU including web, social media, and marketing events with an overarching goal of delivering a positive brand experience to the community.